Entering the Job Market in 2021

June 14, 2021

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented global economic downturn resulting in increased unemployment figures. While it continues to be a challenging time to enter the job market, the good news is that current economic predictions are showing signs of recovery and many organizations are hiring. It is also important to remember that there are many steps you can take to increase your chances of successfully starting your career despite the challenges.  

You are not alone  

We would like you to know that you are not alone. No matter where you are in your career development, the CEU Career Services Office is here to help you, this spring and beyond. CEU alumni have lifelong access to Career Services, so you can count on working with us after graduation, too.  

Purpose of this guide   

In this guide, we provide several resources, suggest actions, and offer ideas that we hope will help you navigate your entry to the job market this spring.

Invest time in figuring out what you like and want and what opportunities are out there  

It can be stressful to think about the future and your goals and aspirations, even under the most perfect conditions—let alone after a tumultuous year full of bad news and uncertainty. But one thing is for sure: there will be a future. Investing time in clarifying your goals, aspirations, and values and in researching opportunities that are out there gives you some agency over what that future looks like.  

Conducting thorough research helps you to narrow your focus and gain a clearer sense of the types of sectors, organizations, and roles that would be a good fit for you. Gaining an in-depth understanding of a field will help you to prepare strong application materials and to perform well in interviews. You are also more likely to have better luck at networking and securing informational interviews if you invest in some desk research first.  


Plan for multiple scenarios and be flexible  

Be pragmatic. A part of this process should, of course, be about pursuing your dreams, but even in normal circumstances, career paths do not always go according to plan and dreams do not come true right away. This is even more so in the current situation. Therefore, it is good to be prepared for multiple scenarios; make sure you don’t only have a Plan A and Plan B, but also plans C, D, and possibly E, as well. Be flexible and ready to adapt your ideas about what you will do after graduation and about the time it will take to reach your goals. Be open to opportunities that might not be relevant to what you ultimately would like to do; work experience of any kind is better than none and increases your likelihood of reaching your goals in the future.  


Build and strengthen professional networks

While in-person networking opportunities are still limited, this should not keep you from connecting with people. Many positions get filled without ever being publicly advertised, which means that if you are not connecting with people, you may be missing out on possibilities. Due to the pandemic, in many fields there is more competition than usual. In addition to other graduating students, many of the previous year’s graduates are still looking for opportunities in their fields of interest, as are many young professionals who lost their jobs during the past year. In this situation, making connections is more important than ever. The more proactive you are about reaching out and the easier you make it for employers to get to know what you have to offer, the more likely you are to get hired.  

Talking with people who already do the sort of work you’re interested in is also a great way of learning more about the field, career paths, and entry requirements. So do some informational interviews. Professionals are usually flattered to be asked and to share their experiences.  

Join online webinars and discussions, ask your already existing contacts if they can help you to connect with people in their networks, connect with CEU alumni on LinkedIn, and attend virtual career fairs.  


Keep applying and developing your skillset

Despite the challenging times, many companies and organizations are actively recruiting and hiring. This means you should keep looking and applying. While competition might be higher in many fields and getting hired might take longer than before the pandemic, try not to get discouraged. Also remember that even if you get rejected for the position you initially applied for, actively applying puts you on an organization’s radar for potential future openings.  

To increase your chances of getting hired, make sure your application materials, LinkedIn profile, and social media accounts (yes, employers do look at those) are in good shape. You might also want to consider enrolling in online courses to further develop your skills and to demonstrate proactiveness and willingness to learn.  


Note about the Academic Job Market  

For years the number of PhDs entering the job market has greatly surpassed the number of academic jobs available. This situation has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in broad hiring freezes and budget cuts. In addition to searching and applying for academic positions, it is a good idea to come up with plans B and C that include job searches outside of academia. If you want to read more about this topic, see here and here (access for free using the CEU VPN).